Back in the tiny, little car (with great gas mileage, ok, I should be thankful) for a full day of travel in the midwest. Wisconsin is a long state going north to south. Illinois is even longer. Adding to it’s longness is the fact that there is very little to break the monotony of the landscape . “Oh, there’s a field! Oh, and there’s another field! Oh, oh, there’s a barn!” It continues like this for hundreds of miles in a mind dulling, flat way. However, it is spring so at least it is green and the fields are planted. In August when it’s hot and dusty and dried up you don’t even want to be there.
As evening rolled around I saw a sign for a Dutch Kitchen restaurant and thought the husband might enjoy stopping for dinner. It was an Amish community of about 3,000 population, Arcola, Illinois. I think a town has to have at least three Amish people to take advantage of the label “Amish community”. Right away the husband is wondering if the reality show with the Amish mafia has done any filming there. We left the interstate and drove into town where there were real brick streets and beautiful, big, old two story frame houses with shady lawns. Main Street was where we found the Dutch Kitchen Restaurant and had our meal.
The husband decided to try out his Penn Dutch heritage on the waitress. He asked for some dish in another language and got a blank, “deer in the headlights” look from the very young waitress who had no clue what he was saying. Of course, this was an opportunity to educate, which he did fairly thoroughly. She came back and asked if she could just bring him a dish of cottage cheese and he could put his own apple butter on it. We repeated the lesson later when the owner came around to check on us.
But who would have guessed that we had landed in a place with such a claim to fame. The pictures on the wall in the restaurant were full of the history of the town, including one from 1898 when a castle built entirely of broomstick corn was erected on the street right outside the restaurant (see pic of pic). They have a broomstick corn festival at the end of the summer. And when I went outside to get some photos of the town I learned that the inventor of Raggedy Ann and Andy was born in Arcola. They have a festival for the dolls every year (see pic below). Two festivals for one town! And there could be more for all I know. The streets and buildings were classic old midwestern town and really quite interesting.
I’m just sayin’ it can be kind of fun to pull off the road and spend a few minutes in some small, unheralded place, on a whim. Do it.